By Ron Gregory
PENSACOLA, Fla. — Former Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury is apparently headed for what Forbes magazine calls the second-“cushiest” federal prison camp in America.
Government sources confirmed Thursday that Thornsbury has been directed to report to the Federal Prison Camp in Pensacola, Florida. Williamson sources confirmed today that Thornsbury has “already left for Florida.” Although officials said the reporting date is Tuesday, they said it is “possible he will report early.”
Thornsbury was sentenced to 50 months in prison after a federal corruption investigation in Mingo County. Last October, the former judge pleaded guilty to a felony charge related to his role in a scheme to deprive defendant George White of the attorney of his choice. Former prosecutor Michael Sparks was charged with a misdemeanor count in the crime that is said to have also involved former county commissioner Dave Baisden and others.
Thornsbury and his cohorts offered White a lesser sentence on drug-related charges. This offer was in exchange for him agreeing to change lawyers in an attempt to halt an FBI investigation into the alleged drug activity of former Sheriff Eugene Crum, who was shot and killed while having lunch in his car in April 2013. The scheme was designed to allegedly protect Crum from prosecution.
The ex-judge is now appealing the length of the sentence. He was charged in a federal information, meaning he has cooperated with federal authorities. His sentence was reduced by 10 months by U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Johnston for his cooperation with prosecutors.
Thornbury’s prison location was listed in a Forbes article which ranked what the magazine rated the “cushiest” prisons in the nation. The article describes how inmates at the low-security prison can walk through a tree-lined park with visitors. It adds that prisoners can work while they are incarcerated. They were paid 12 to 40 cents per hour when the article appeared. Funds earned can be spent in the prison commissary.